Lake Palestine - 2005 Survey Report
Prepared by Patrick A. Beck and Richard A. Ott, Jr.,
Inland Fisheries Division
District 3-C, Tyler, Texas
This is the authors' summary from a 51-page report. For a copy of the complete report, use the download link in the sidebar.
The Lake Palestine fish community was surveyed from June 2005–May 2006 using electrofishing, gill nets, and trap nets. A habitat and vegetation survey was conducted in August 2005. A roving-creel survey conducted from June 1, 2005–May 31, 2006 collected angler use and harvest information. This report summarizes results of the surveys and contains a management plan based on those findings.
Lake Palestine is a 23,434-acre reservoir on the Neches River, Texas, built to provide water for municipal and industrial purposes. Boat access is adequate, but public bank angler access is limited to public boat ramps or at bridge crossings at which parking is limited. None of the public boat ramps have facilities marked as handicap-specific, but the courtesy pier nearest the dam has guard rails making wheelchair accessibility possible. The reservoir contains a diversity of littoral habitat types. Although submersed aquatic vegetation is locally abundant above the Hwy 315 bridge in the Kickapoo arm of the reservoir, overall surface coverage still remains below 9%.
Important sport fish include sunfishes (Lepomis spp.), largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), white bass (Morone chrysops), palmetto bass (Morone chrysops X saxatilis), blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus), channel catfish (I. punctatus), white crappie (Pomoxis annularus) and black crappie (P. nigromaculatus). The management plan from 2001 included stockings of Florida largemouth bass (M. s. floridanus) to increase Florida alleles in the population. Stockings were conducted in 2004 and 2005. The 12-inch length limit for white bass reverted to the statewide 10-inch limit in September 2003. Biennial monitoring of largemouth bass size distribution and growth rate has continued. Additional monitoring of temperate bass and catfish also occurs on a biennial basis. Vegetation surveys identified hydrilla (Hydrilla verticilata) and waterhyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) in the system. Attempts were made to control waterhyacinth through manual removal.
- Prey species: Threadfin shad (Dorosoma petenense) continued to be present in the reservoir and electrofishing catch rate was higher than in previous surveys. Electrofishing catch rate of gizzard shad (D. cepedianum) was good, but few gizzard shad were available as prey to sport fish. Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), redbreast (L. auritus), and redear sunfish (L. macrolophus) are the most abundant sunfish species. Catch rates of sunfishes =4 inches continues to be low. Despite low sunfish catch rates, overall prey availability was adequate for piscivorous sportfishes.
- Catfishes: Catfishes
account for more directed angler effort than any other group with 35% of
the directed effort. Blue catfish size distribution continues to be better
than channel catfish; however, channel catfish size structure has improved
from previous years. Overall gill net catch rate for channel catfish
has declined compared to previous surveys, but availability of legal-length
specimens has improved considerably. Catch
rates of legal-length fish was higher than previously documented. A channel catfish specific fish kill was documented in 2005 and may have contributed to the improved size distribution by reducing intraspecific competition.
- Temperate basses: Temperate basses (including white bass) made up 7.5% of the Lake Palestine fishery in 2005-2006. The gill net catch rate of white bass has declined from a high in 2002 and may be related to year class strength resulting from river flows. Gill net catch rate of palmetto bass was lower than previous surveys and may be due to decreased stocking rates. Growth, size distribution, and body condition of both species continues to be acceptable.
- Largemouth bass: Largemouth bass are the second most sought after species at Lake Palestine accounting for approximately 22% (2.9 h/acre) of the directed effort. Size 4 distribution of largemouth bass was slightly below the target range for a balanced population. Electrofishing catch rates of stock-length fish decreased from 2003, but body condition of largemouth bass was in the desirable range for most size classes. Angler catch rate is good. Annual stocking of Florida largemouth bass fingerlings at 100/acre from 1997-2000 may have been responsible for the apparent increase in Florida alleles and the percentage of pure Florida largemouth bass in the population.
- Crappie: Both white crappie and black crappie are present in Lake Palestine and trap net catches reflect shifts in dominance between the species as dictated by environmental conditions. Crappie were the third most sought after sportfish at Lake Palestine with 17% of the directed effort. Overall angler catch rate of crappie approaches 2/h and an estimated 92,422 crappie were harvested in the past year. Trap net catch rates of white crappie have declined compared to previous surveys, but this decline is compensated by an increase in black crappie catch rate. Body condition of both species is excellent and is indicative of abundant prey availability. White crappie grow to legal length by age 2 and black crappie by age 3.
Largemouth bass are important in this system, therefore, additional monitoring of their growth rates and size distribution will be conducted in fall of 2006 and 2008. The sampling will also provide fish for electrophoretic analysis. Channel catfish recruitment and population structure will continue to be monitored in 2008 and 2010 samples.
News releases promoting the blue catfish fishery will be continued. A long term research project investigating stocking of palmetto bass has been proposed. Discussion with the controlling authority regarding improved bank access will continue.
Performance Report as required by Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act Texas Federal Aid Project F-30-R-31 Statewide Freshwater Fisheries Monitoring and Management Program